Kenyan-born musician Emmy Kosgei talks about new song and marriage
Kenyan-born musician Emmy Kosgei talks about new song and marriageThank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
The sublime sound of a guitar wafts in the air, and then the saxophones blend in, followed seamlessly by drums and a mix of other instruments.
This, and the exhilarating lead voice backed up by an amazing set of voices in a massive auditorium, produce the glorious harmony that makes up Maloo, (it won’t be long), the latest release by Kenyan award winning gospel singer Emmy Kosgei-Madubuko.
The reassuring tune meant to give fans hope during the pandemic has adopted an Afro-fusion style with a tinge of jazz, presented in a live recording. Emmy is keen to point out that her style of music is evolving.
Ever since moving to Nigeria after her wedding to renowned televangelist, Apostle Anselm Madubuko in 2013, the Taunet Nelel hitmaker has made a significant adjustment to her music, which she says is a breath of fresh air, but will not depart much from her signature compositions.
“For the first time, I worked with a full Nigerian band and company. Another first is the full live recording, which we produced at the church auditorium, a departure from the past where I did audios separately from videos shot in interesting sceneries,” Emmy told Lifestyle in a virtual interview.
“The backup vocalists and instrumentalists are powerful, regardless of the language barrier. We incorporated a different blend of sounds; an afro-fusion with a little jazz and it’s amazing. This is my new style,” says the singer.
Maloo is also the title of a soon-to-be-released seventh album, which will only be weeks apart from her seventh wedding anniversary and her 40th birthday, which was a low-key affair due to Covid-19 restrictions.
The singer says she has got a lot of feedback from across the world on how the message in the song is full of hope and encouragement during the pandemic.
“People from Kenya, Nigeria and even Russia have sent their feedback appreciating the message in the song. It lifts the spirit. In a nutshell, the lyrics say that no matter what we’re going through as a nation or a people, we should be encouraged by God’s word that better days are ahead. And you can’t write off anybody because of a single (bad) season,” she says.
The artiste, projecting gospel messages in the Kalenjin language, hit the scene with the release of Taunet Nelel album a decade ago, a massive feat that attracted national attention, cementing her place in the hearts of Kenyans, beyond those who understand the language.
And in Nigeria, the Kenyan-born musician, who was inspired by celebrated South African songstress Miriam Makeba, wants to break the glass ceiling as she builds her continental profile.
The Taai and Ololo singer, however, admits that to get the new song out has not been easy, given that a lockdown happened just as her Kenyan studio team, which she has stuck to, was ready for her to produce the album she planned to release in August. She terms the experience frustrating.
Style of music
“My husband played a role in the eventual success. He kept pushing me to release the song saying, ‘don’t you trust God to give you a local (Nigerian) producer?’ I was used to mine, but God brings the right people with the sound, it doesn’t matter what language you sing,” she says.
When she met the new production company, Lagos-based Jubal Entertainment, they were already studying her style of music and hoping to work with her someday. The day was finally with them and they settled for Afro-fusion — contemporary musical elements and instruments combined with traditional African rhythm.
Because of the pandemic-related restrictions, Emmy did not manage to fly her Kenyan-based back-up singers and dancers to shoot the song as is the norm. She adopted the Western African vocalists and instrumentalists, taught them Kalenjin and Swahili words and her style of music.
“Achieving the flow is sometimes a challenge. You can best express yourself when you have a team that blends in,” she says.
She also had the women don her signature beads across the forehead and neck. It is for the same reason — maintaining originality — that the influence of the vibrant Nigerian music has hardly penetrated her compositions since she moved to the country.
Her deep, poetic lyrics rendered uniquely, have always appealed to varied audiences, and Maloo is no exception. It has the usual memorable chorus that is easy to sing along to, perhaps a strategy for making vernacular music lovable beyond language barriers.
Fly Kenyan flag
“I am proud to fly the Kenyan flag globally. I represent both Christianity and culture through my vernacular music and style of presentation. One thing that stands out in my videos is dressing and the sound of it. I am proud as a Kenyan and a Kalenjin and I am sure I inspire many other Kenyans. No human is limited as (marathon champion Eliud) Kipchoge says,” she says. In Nigeria, she works closely with the Kenyan High Commission, the consulate and the Kenyan community.
Growing up, Emmy’s ideal marriage was to a quiet man in a peaceful, tucked-away home which she would run with love and a big heart inspired by her mother. Well, she says she is living her dream, except for the “quiet” life. Whenever she is not addressing a women’s convention in Abuja or other parts of the vast country, she is performing at global concerts in Russia, United Kingdom, US, or accompanying her 62-year-old husband, the general overseer of the Revival Assembly Church, on local and international gospel missions.
The BET Fashion Award winner first met her husband at a conference in Kenya. He would later invite her to events in Nigeria and the UK as their friendship blossomed. It culminated in marriage after Madubuko’s wife died. The songstress says she lives a fabulous, fulfilling life, devoid of any regret.
“Growing up, I really hoped just to be a good wife, not stressful but supportive to my better half and, like my mother, have a big heart to support and love people. What I never envisioned however, was to be a pastor’s wife like her — my father is a pastor. I wanted one quiet person somewhere,” she says with hearty laughter. “Looking back at my choice of partner, I can say I am glad I took this journey. He is my happiness, my peace, and support in music, ministry and everything.
I have grown so much in the seven years and I am doing what God wants of me, which is fulfilling destiny,” she says. She has blended in, to the extent that she preaches in pidgin English, popularly spoken in Nigeria.
In one women’s conference in Lagos, she disclosed that her mother had been praying for her to marry a clergy-man, and that her matrimony with Madubuko was an answered prayer. “My husband calls me “my Nubian Queen” and sometimes refers to me as Mkem, which means ‘my wife’,” says the singer.
She recounts her reception into his already established family and ministry as a loving experience with immense support as the mother of the church. She found the ministry bigger than she had envisioned and she quickly earned the title wife of “the general” as Madubuko is referred to in church circles.
The music sensation terms it a humbling experience to have people way older calling her mother, which she says is a big title that comes with immense responsibility. The business community, students, women, youth and others look up to her, and she says God has helped her balance between being a good wife and other responsibilities.
“I travel a lot,” she says. “God gives you the strength, the grace and backs you up as you fulfil destiny, you don’t have to struggle doing it.” At the pulpit, she is radical and fiery, spitting stimulating philosophical messages like “God is not limited by time, for he himself is time”, backing that up with the Biblical story of Sarah, who miraculously bore a child in her old-age, and “There is no gender in the spiritual realm”, for the violent take it by force as the good book says, and that women and men have equal chances to it.
The singer credits her husband for the frequency of concerts she holds outside the continent in a testimony that her life has changed for the better.
Her videos on YouTube contain events where she had to preach the gospel and sing to a non English-speaking congregation. One such event was in Ukraine, where she brought down the roof with her tune Ategisin, with Ukrainian back- up singers.
“I trained them for two hours. I landed on the same day before the event and in the afternoon, we did the rehearsals. It was easy because they are professionals. It was amazing to see them do African sounds,” says Emmy.
She has had to do the same in various places including cities in Russia, Riga (Latvia), America and Berlin.
The songstress delved into the question of whether age difference is of essence in selecting a spouse, saying “marriage has no age”, and that the kind of union a couple builds largely depends on their personalities.
“It doesn’t mean a younger or an older person is cooler, or that a particular habit exists at a particular age, it is about personality. If a man is a philanderer, they are, even in old age, and if they’re straight forward, they remain so,” she says. “Sometimes we judge ourselves too much about marrying right. When you have a perception, you will have a lot of expectations, which spoil things. It’s a blessing though when you find a compatible partner.”
Early this year, the singer was trolled on social media by men from her Kalenjin community, who claimed that she had made disparaging remarks insinuating that they were unromantic. She had given an interview in which she explained, using an analogy, how her husband won her heart through words and actions that no one else had shown.
She, however, maintains that there was a misunderstanding caused by some people who misinterpreted her analogy, noting that a number of bloggers who led the online onslaught have since apologised to her privately.
“They chose to attack me for no reason. I wasn’t attacking the community or even Kenyans. The question was specific to a conversation with a person in Australia. I am the biggest ambassador of my community. I cannot in any way disparage our men,” she says.
She acknowledges that the lives of celebrities attract a lot of hate online, and she has taken up the initiative to fight the cyber-bullying through a programme called Heal the Web.
The Madubukos live a life of opulence, going by the pictures Emmy posts on social media — luxurious cars, palatial home and places they patronise.
To unwind, she loves taking long drives, shopping or going on a getaway with her husband. She also attends concerts or hangs out with friends whom she describes as fantastic and influencing her to the right direction.
“I miss home all the time,” the singer admits. “I visit home most of the time and I bring my parents here (Nigeria) sometimes. I keep the communication alive as much as possible,” she says. In Kenya, Emmy still runs various projects. It excites her that the Pamoja Concert held on the eve of every new year will mark 10 years this December. More exciting is that the first lot of children she adopted and educated from nursery school will be sitting Form Four examinations next year, with the rest being a class behind all the way to Standard Eight. There are more than 70 of them.
Emmy has a lot on her plate, but her primary focus now is working to finalise her new album. Two more songs are less than a week from being released.
By Anita Chepkoech